New Jan. 6 footage appears to show rioter firing a gun in the air during Capitol attack

WASHINGTON — Newly unearthed footage from Jan. 6 appears to show a rioter — a man identified in an NBC News story nearly two years ago — firing a gun into the air outside the Capitol during the attack.

Online sleuths who have aided in hundreds of Jan. 6 prosecutions say he is the same man they identified to the FBI, who is currently individual no. 200 on the bureau’s Capitol Violence page, which he first appeared on three years ago. Videos and photographs from the Capitol on Jan. 6 showed him with what appears to be a gun in his waistband. As NBC News previously reported, that man, John Emanuel Banuelos, told Salt Lake City police that he was at the Capitol and had been captured on film with a gun. “I was in the D.C. riots,” he told the investigators, according to a police transcript. “I’m the one in the video with the gun right here.”

Banuelos has not been arrested or charged in connection with Jan. 6; the Salt Lake City police had arrested him in connection with the fatal stabbing of 19-year-old Christopher Thomas Senn in a park on July 4, 2021.

“Man, should I just tell the FBI to come get me or what?” he asked Salt Lake City police officers, according to a police transcript. Weeks later, Banuelos called an investigator with the department and “talked about going where Donald Trump sent him,” apparently referencing the Capitol, according to a police record. The Salt Lake City DA’s office did not pursue a case against Banuelos who claimed self-defense in Senn’s death.

Now, footage released by another Jan. 6 rioter appears to show Banuelos firing the gun into the air twice during the chaotic scene on the west side of the Capitol, as rioters battled with police. Online sleuths also surfaced U.S. Capitol Police surveillance footage previously released in connection with another Capitol attack case that shows the man they’ve identified as Banuelos appearing to fire the gun. They found multiple other videos in which the gunshots can be heard.

The man identified as Banuelos seen appearing to fire a weapon in Capitol CCTV footage.
The man identified as Banuelos seen appearing to fire a weapon in Capitol CCTV footage.U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia

The footage is the first showing a rioter firing a gun on Jan. 6. The incident took place at 2:34 p.m., which is about 10 minutes before an officer inside the Capitol shot and killed Ashli Babbitt as she jumped through a broken window leading into the Speaker’s Lobby. The incident with the gun outside the Capitol was not previously known to online sleuths and has never been mentioned in any court filing. At the time and location where the shots appear to have been fired, the Capitol grounds were in chaos, with law enforcement firing their own non-lethal rounds of crowd control munitions following sustained, repeated assaults on officers, which could explain why the sound of two gunshots didn’t grab much attention.

Despite repeated false claims from conservative media figures that the mob that stormed the Capitol was unarmed, a multitude of defendants were armed with deadly or dangerous weapons, including several who carried firearms, as the Justice Department has proven in court. Among Jan. 6 rioters who were proven to have carried firearms during the Capitol attack are Christopher Alberts, who was sentenced to seven years in prison; Mark Mazza, who carried two guns and was sentenced to five years in federal prison; and Guy Reffitt, who was sentenced to seven years in federal prison after he became the first Jan. 6 defendant to go to trial.

Another Jan. 6 participant, Jerod Bargar, dropped his gun in the mob and was recently sentenced to five years of probation, with six months of home confinement. The officer who recovered Bargar’s weapon on the ground was “aware of multiple reports of firearms in the crowd,” according to prosecutors. Trump also knew the crowd was armed, his former aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified before the Jan. 6 Committee in 2022. He urged security to remove the magnetometers at his rally that morning, she testified, adding that Trump yelled: “They’re not here to hurt me.”

Because so few rioters were arrested on the scene on Jan. 6, there will never be a full accounting of how many of the rioters were carrying guns and other weapons.

The new footage was released this week by Derrick Evans, a Jan. 6 rioter who has admitted that he committed a felony on Jan. 6 and was sentenced to three months in federal prison. He is a former West Virginia legislator and is now running for Congress, having screamed at police officers that day on his own livestream: “We’re taking this country back whether you like it or not!”

Evans did not shoot the new video — he stormed the Capitol from the east side of the building, not the west side where the shots were fired — but he’s been using the video he obtained to raise money for his campaign and placed narration over the video that included false claims about the Jan. 6 attack.

Informed by NBC News that the man he posted video of had been identified, Evans told NBC News that he thought it was “fishy” that Banuelos wasn’t arrested. While Banuelos has an extensive online history of being a Trump supporter, Evans described him as an “agitator” and said he thinks he might be a federal agent, feeding into a false narrative that has been disproven time and time again.

“I think it’d be very disingenuous for myself or anyone for that matter to be like ‘he’s for sure a federal agent,’ that would be wrong to say that,” Evans said. “But I think it’s equally wrong to say he’s definitely not, I think it’s a fair question.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which has overseen the more than 1,250 cases brought against Jan. 6 rioters in the more than three years since the Capitol attack, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about any potential criminal case against Banuelos. Banuelos did not immediately respond to a message sent to one of his social media accounts.

In the nearly two years since Banuelos was publicly identified, a social media account under his name has sent threatening messages to online sleuths who have been working to investigate Jan. 6, the targets of those threats told NBC News. One of the videos Banuelos has sent to the group containing an implied threat, shows Banuelos holding a gun; that footage appeared in a recent PBS segment about the Sedition Hunters’ work.

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